Front Carriers

“Front carrier” is the term we use to generically describe any basket, bag, crate, or rack that carries stuff above the front wheel (this could include so-called randonneur and porteur racks, cargo racks, handlebar bags, wicker baskets, wooden crates, boxy bags, etc.). We like front carriers because they’re easy to access and they increase the carrying capacity of any bike without interfering with the existing cargo area in back. Following are a few of the set-ups we like and use.

Peterboro Basket on a Rivendell Mark’s Rack

Michael is particularly fond of wood and wicker baskets. She likes how they look, and she likes the fact that she can toss in loose items without having to dig for them later. She also likes that baskets are conversation starters; she receives questions and compliments about her baskets just about every time she goes out. The Peterboro basket shown above is light enough to sit atop a small randonneur-style rack like the Rivendell Mark’s Rack.

Pass & Stow Rack with a Bates Crate

The Bates Crate offers most of the benefits of a wooden basket while providing increased storage and weight capacity. The crate can be attached to any existing cargo rack with either small bungee cords or a strap. We particularly like the built-in coffee mug holders… :-)

Pass & Stow Rack with a Freight Baggage Rack Bag

While not as pretty, the Pass & Stow/Freight Baggage combo is a tough and versatile set-up that provides better weather protection and greater capacity than the basket and crate shown above. The FB Rack Bag is specifically designed to fit the Pass & Stow cargo rack.

Wald Woody

Wald baskets are lightweight, well-made, and reasonably priced. The Woody is a popular and attractive wire basket with wooden slats in the base. This is an easy-to-install set-up that works well for fill-in trips to the grocery store or light commuting loads.

Wald 137 Basket with a Rivendell ShopSack

The Wald 137 combined with a small rack and a Rivendell ShopSack is an attractive, versatile and lightweight set-up. The ShopSack easily unclips from the basket to serve as a reusable shopping bag. Very cool.

Civia Loring Rack

The Civia Loring comes stock with a gorgeous cargo rack that has raised rails, a built-in U-lock holder, and bamboo slats. It has a 20 lb. maximum load capacity. I use this rack for photo shoots — a medium-sized Tamrac #5374 photo backpack fits perfectly.

These are just a few possible set-ups among a wide variety on the market. Whether you’re looking to increase your overall load capacity or you’d just like to have a convenient place to throw a sweater or a set of keys and a cell phone, consider looking into a front carrier of some sort — we use them daily on almost all of our bikes.

25 Responses to “Front Carriers”

  • CTP says:

    the picture of the wald must have been taken with an hour of installation… you know, because it’s not brown with rust yet!

  • Alan says:

    @CTP

    You must live in a humid area; I’ve had little problem with rust on my Wald baskets.

    Alan

  • brad says:

    I use a Gamoh front basket that I bought from Rivendell — it’s amazingly strong (can carry 40 pounds) and even comes with a built-in bottle opener in the front (apparently these racks were designed in Japan to carry a case of beer).

    However, it’s really heavy and I find it can dangerously interfere with steering when loaded. Even empty it’s heavy and I’ve had a lot of close calls when parking the bike as you have to be constantly vigilant for wheel flop as soon as you let your hands off the handlebars.

    Much as I love the Gamoh’s appearance, I will probably replace it with a Wald Woody or something else that’s lighter. The destabilization and wheel flop are the main complaints I have with front baskets.

  • Chase says:

    I must say that I absolutely love my front rack. I was worried at first about carrying a lot of weight up front but you get used to it quick. Because of the increased payload capacity of my bike, I find myself hardly ever driving my car anymore. Trips to the grocery store are all done by bike now. Panniers are nice and hold a lot, but having a rack up front, I can load on cases of beer, large packages and pretty much whatever else that wont fit in the bag. :) Here is my setup:
    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4038/4684938549_cf8120f84b_b.jpg

  • Ed L. says:

    @ brad

    Good information to know about the Gamoh rack. I had been eyeing that rack, but was worried about weight and whether it would be inconvenient for locking up at public bike racks.

  • clyrago says:

    Don’t forget the FR8 by Workcycles. The Massive Rack can hold my week’s worth of groceries for a family of 6. The rack has it’s own stand too.

    http://clyrago.blogspot.com/2009/11/fr8-my-pretty-orange-bike.html

  • Alan says:

    @brad

    Flop can certainly be an issue. A dual-leg centerstand with longish legs helps keep the front wheel pointed forward while loading. Still, I have to watch what I’m doing when securing heavy loads. The Loring has a centering spring which pretty much takes care of it. I understand Hebie makes an aftermarket centering spring, though I’ve yet to locate a U.S. source for it. Anyone know of a source?

    Single-leg kickstands and heavy front loads are never a good mix.

  • CedarWood says:

    After installing a removable mesh front basket on my old steelie turned suave city bike, I can’t live without it! Even though I have a rear rack, the basket is so handy and I find myself using panniers less.

    Yes, there is some wheel flop, loaded or not, but I anticipate when parking and there hasn’t been an issue. The double leg stand helps also. Am thinking about creating a non-turn fork lock just for fun.

  • bostonretrowheelmen says:

    lots of really nice front racks! i just wanted to mention that there can be a significant difference in ride and handling between a front load and a rear load. while front carriers are convenient, if the bike was not designed to carry a front load (i.e., low trail fork design), having a load in front can cause the steering to feel excessively heavy and uncontrollable. by contrast, most bikes can handle a rear load similarly, without much attention to design. whichever type of carrier one chooses, attention should be paid to installing it as low above the wheel as is practical, to achieve the lowest possible center of gravity.

  • CedarWood says:

    @bostonretrowheelmen:

    Agreed on all points, but I set my rather tall basket high enough over my 27″ wheel to allow for a fork-mounted front light. Because of my low-trail fork, I can haul pounds of stuff with no negative handling characteristics. My cargo bike with the high-trail fork wanders with a heavy front load.

  • Jason says:

    @ Chase, what kind of rack is that on your Cannondale?

  • Scott says:

    Yes, @Chase, your setup is pretty bad-ass! :^)

  • Nick says:

    I used a big Wald basket for a long time and really liked it, but its capacity is limited by the weak mounting; lots of sway with those handle bar hangers and long, unbraced struts. Strapping it to a good front rack (like the LHT from last week) would be a good fix, but I’m too cheap for that. I built a rack/basket out of 1/2″ pvc and lawn chair webbing. It attaches to the fork crown bolt and to the fork in 4 places; thats sturdy enough for a case of beer or 4 gallons of paint.

    I think its a lot more comfortable riding and more secure handling to have that weight on the front than in the back, but I have no idea about low trail fork design. For a given head tube angle is there fork geometry that works better?

    I think that a 2 legged kickstand and a centering spring is a necessary part of a front rack.

  • bostonretrowheelmen says:

    @nick: you’re right on with mounting a large wald basket to a sturdy rack; the default wald mounting hardware is the weakest link. i did similarly with my wife’s bike:

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2653/4182720313_c0e07cd1b4_b.jpg

    the wald is attached to a $16 bike nashbar front rack which mounts to the fork crown bolt and cantilever studs. i left the wald stays in place, and they attach to the quick-release axle skewer. in all, there are 6 attachment points, and the wald sits way lower than it would using its standard handlebar hardware. i also turned the wald into a “woody” by bolting in some teak slats. this reinforces the basket, which is very flexible by nature:

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2562/4182717727_9d7d573189_b.jpg

  • Sam says:

    Is rusting of the Wald basket a common problem? I hadn’t heard of that till I read CT’s comment above.
    @ CT: where do you live and how long before your Wald started to rust?
    @ Alan: what do you mean by “little problem with rust” on your Wald?
    Thanks for the info! I’m currently trying to decide on a basket….

  • Alan says:

    @Sam

    Let me rephrase that. I’ve had zero problems with rust on my Wald baskets. :-)

  • Chase says:

    @Jason and Scott- The rack is made by a one man operation in Portland called TCB racks
    ( http://www.tcbracks.com/ ). It is made of 100% stainless steel and is very modular. You can take off the railing or add tons of accessories. I highly recommend one. :)

  • bostonretrowheelmen says:

    @sam: my wife’s 2-year old wald basket has no rust, but her bike is stored indoors. my bike also has a 2-year old wald basket that has some rust in places, but is left outdoors.

    one option not mentioned is the velo-orange porteur rack. this is a very heavy duty yet light (hollow stainless steel) front rack that is available with or without a side rail. i like it because it can be used as a platform for a rack or basket, and still be used with side panniers.

    http://www.velo-orange.com/voporteurrack.html

    i have one on one of my bikes, and i love it!

    http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1287/4667585484_36f24a6c16_b.jpg

  • Brent says:

    I also have the Gamoh King Carrier on my Trek Allant, and I love it, I use it with a large Shopsack. I don’t find it causes too much interference with steering as long as I load it evenly, and I have also found that if I load it first it helps keep the front wheel on the ground (I have a double legged kickstand) while I am loading the back. I don’t ever come close to the 40lb limit on it though. This is just my experience, and isn’t meant to refute anyone else’s. YMMV. I also have a great basket that I can strap down inside the carrier to take the dog on rides. We are off the vet on Saturday for a checkup with him in his basket right where I can see him.

  • urbanwriter says:

    Wading in to the Wald discussion… I have a Wald 157 ‘Giant’ basket on my daily, mid-60′s department store bike, the daily beater, and here in Vancouver have no rust yet after 5 months of lovely rain. Sure, the bike is stored inside, but it never gets any maintenance attention. And the basket is far more usable (sorry Alan) than the one on my Civia Loring. The Wald is considerably larger, light (oddly), and far easier to bungee-cord things into. The Wald is also so deep that quite often there is no need to bungee. Fork flop at low speed is a slightly greater issue with the Wald than the Loring with the factory basket, but at 30 mph (converted from the far superior metric 50 km/hr :)) the department store bike is delightfully stable.

    I’ll chalk the stability up to an exotic and hard-to-get tire size, and no it isn’t 650 anything but rather 28 x 1 1/4, and the 68 degree headtube/~65 mm rake. Oh, and the tires? 700 x wide.

    What’s not to like? The mounting, over the axle, and it doesn’t get 1% of the ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ the Loring gets. And weekend will see a new set of braze-ons to mount at the bottom of the fork, and, hopefully, a through-bolt at the fork crown.

    All hail Wald. :)

  • d'Andre says:

    I just received and installed a Camper Rack from Brad at Capricorn Bicycles in Minneapolis – lovely craftsmanship and very clever strut attachment. Getting ready to mount a light on one of the handy braze-ons. I’m still pondering whether to add a tray or a basket, or, use a bag. Thanks for posting the info about the Freight Baggage rack bag, that’s nice.
    Here’s a pic of my Capricorn Camper Rack installed on my Masi commuter:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/7lRKIhRho42Xr_2t5GxFVw?feat=directlink

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Although spendy, I’m really drooling over the Paul “flatbed” rack:

    http://www.paulcomp.com/flatbed.html

    I presume it’s up to usual Paul standards…

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Velo Orange Flash Sale: Porteur Rack says:

    [...] PS – If you’re unfamiliar with porteur racks, read our article on front carriers. [...]

  • Jeff says:

    With several products and fun choices out on the market, I went for dual rear army panniers and a Wald front basket. I was trying to stay within the vintage aesthetics for appearance and light cargo capacity. The Wald front basket has yet to show any signs of rust or wear and tear. After nearly three years of abuse, it still looks brand new. The panniers were a NOS purchase for only $20 a set on eBay. They have beautiful real leather straps, durable metal clips, can be used over the shoulder and are water proof. There is no name or tags other than: Made in Germany. Best of luck to all of those searching for what works best for them.

    See image @

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lavaboy2/3742341530/in/set-72157618818370599/

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Carrying Stuff: A Roundup says:

    [...] Jeff in Front Carriers: "With several products and fun choices out on the market, I went for dual rear army panniers…" [...]

 
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